As you might have heard / read, Colombia is an amazing country located in the northern part of South America, being the only country in this continent to have access to the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It limits with Venezuela, Brasil, Peru, Ecuador and Panama, at the continental territory, and with Nicaragua at the San Andres peninsula. From South to North it is crossed by the Andes Cordillera, which divides in 3, making Colombia a country full of biodiversity. You can find all kind of climates, from perpetual snow to deserts, from the Amazonia to the caribe, all in one country. The best of all: you don’t have to deal with seasons, there is only rain and sun, cold and warm, dry and humid, depending on how high up the mountain you go. If you want to know more general information about the country, visit this website.
Medellin, a city to love
Medellin is a big city located in the “Aburrá” valley. It has a population of around 3 million people, and is the second most important city in the country, after the capital Bogota. There are plenty of things to do in the city and surroundings, but if you are one of those tourists who love to do the typical visits recommended in the tourist information center, I recommend you to visit medellin.travel and download their app. It is in Spanish, like almost everything in Medellin, so you should better have some basic knowledge of Spanish any time you want to travel to Colombia, because although English has been introduced in all schools and universities, not everyone would be able to understand and help you if you cannot speak any Spanish at all.
I must say as a local, that I am very upset with the series “Narcos” because we have tried to change that image of our city through a hard work, showing how nice people we are and that we don’t actually support any illegal activities regarding narcotraffic. They seem to remember the world that Colombia is the house of narcos, and we as Colombians are all hired murderers. But nothing is further from reality than this series, and you will discover it once you get to visit Medellin.
The currency in Colombia is the Colombian peso (COP), and you will have to get some change in the airport so you can pay for everything. The change is around 3.200 COP per dollar, but you should better check it before traveling, here. At the airport, as in every airport around the world, you might get a lower rate, so just change ~100 USD for surviving while you can change more in the city center.
If you travel by plane, remember that the international airport is located in a smaller city (Rionegro), 40 km east from Medellin. You will have to take either a taxi (60.000 COP), bus (6.000 COP), or shared taxi (10.000 COP) to go to your destination (those are just approximated prices) Once you arrive at the city, depending what type of transport you take, you might have to take another taxi to arrive at your destination (because the bus and shared taxi only stop at the terminal). Remember that the taxi prices inside the city are regulated, and there is a so-called “taximeter” in every taxi, which will tell you the final price. The minimum you will have to pay is around 5.000 COP.
Hotels are usually a little bit expensive, moreover in the “Poblado” zone. You could find better prices in “Laureles” (near “La 70” avenue). There are also a lot of hostels for foreigners that you can find in hostelworld for very good prices as well. The last option I could give you is Airbnb, which has become as well popular in the city.
I already mentioned the taxis, which is what tourist normally prefer. I have to say that the public transport system is not as well designed as the European one, except for the metro and metro-plus lines, which is a very nice way of crossing the city. There are only 2 metro lines, and 2 cable lines, connected to some metro-bus lines. The “normal” bus is in general very crappy, but it is sometimes the only option to go to some zones (if you do not want to go by taxi). There are public bikes and a lot of stations along the city, but unfortunately, it is only for locals, but you could rent a bike at your hotel or hostel.
What to do
You can do everything what tourists do in Medellin:
- Go to the “Nutibara” hill, which is a park in the middle of the city with a little replica of a typical town (known as “Pueblito paisa“)
- Get in the “Turibus”, a bus that goes around touristic places
- Visit the attractive town “Guatape“, which has a giant monolith that you can walk (or even climb) to the top. It is just a few hours by bus to the east of Medellin.
- Get a nice tan in the warm “Santa Fé de Antioquia“, only a couple of hours at the west of Medellin.
- Go to the city center and visit the “Botero’s park” and the museum of Antioquia.
- And all the other things included in the list recommended by medellin.travel.
- Use the metro cable lines and travel to “Arvi Park“.
- Go to a Football match.
- Enjoy the flowers fest “Feria de Flores”
pictures: Guatape Monolith and dam, a match of Atlético Nacional and mtb at Arvi Park
But you can also do a lot of things that locals love to do:
- Jump in your first paragliding flight at “San Félix“, which I personally love to do.
- Practice mountain bike all around the city, for example, close to the prison “La Catedral”, which has become a very visited zone because of its great routes for mountain biking, or even in the “Nutibara” hill for those who don’t want to go very far from the city. This is one of my favorite things to do in Medellin, I could spend the whole day biking on the mountains.
- Party at the local salsa pubs, like the famous “Tibiri-tabara” or “Zona Havana“, in the zone near the soccer stadium.
- Visit traditional towns like “Jericó“, “Venecia“, “Jardín” or “La Ceja“. Just ask the locals for the best towns to visit, and they will for sure recommend you some of those. You will get stunned with the beautiful houses and nice people.
- And of course, eat the local food: “bandeja paisa”, “arepa” and “empanadas”
pictures: Paragliding at San Felix , MTB near “La Catedral” prison and Metro
Finally, just as a recommendation, try not to wear a lot of jewelry and use your mobile a lot when you are on the streets (or your very expensive professional camera). It has become a much safer city for tourists, but you better not give them the opportunity to take advantage. People are extremely nice (especially if they notice that you are the tourist), but be aware of those who might want to harm you. It is good to have contact with locals but try to be always accompanied by someone you trust. Try to stay in the comfort zones near the river, if you go to the neighborhoods which are very far from the center, just make sure to be with a local, because that would be a little risky.
I just have to say one last thing, all my friends from USA or Europe who have come to Medellin have really loved it, to the point of coming back or even staying there forever. Just give it a try, and you will fall in love with it.